The surprise announcement by Western Australia that it would open its hard border to residents of New South Wales and Victoria from next week, coupled with the reopening of the Queensland/NSW border earlier this week, has been applauded by leading Australian travel groups.
Flight Centre Travel Group’s GM of Premium Brands, Danielle Galloway said the company was “thrilled” to see border restrictions being eased “allowing Australians to travel more freely.”
“Learning to live with our ‘new normal’ of COVID 19 is essential and while Governments have done an excellent job in protecting individual states, it is critical that we have a national approach which supports all Australian’s travel needs,” Galloway told LATTE.
“For Travel Associates as a business, it is also very welcome, allowing us to support clients with travel needs beyond just intrastate. Particularly around this time of year, our clients want to visit friends and family, take a break away and experience parts of the country they’ve never seen before.
“While we have our own country exclusively available to us, this really is the time to see the parts of Australia you’ve always dreamed of seeing but perhaps not prioritised.”
Goldman Travel Corporation’s Joint Managing Director, Anthony Goldman was also encouraged by the prospect of further travel restrictions being eased.
“The opening of domestic borders has started to kick-start the travel industry,” he said.
“We have been hibernating and now we are seeing our clients wanting to travel and explore Australia, our own backyard,” Goldman told LATTE.
Goldman said his company was also seeing corporate customers connecting in person with their interstate offices and team members.
“People are suffering zoom-fatigue and want that human connection,” he said.
Morrison Government rescue package
Both travel company executives also welcomed the $128 million life line for travel agents (fuelled by the pandemic travel downturn) announced this week by Federal Tourism Minister, Simon Birmingham.
Under the arrangement, a minimum payment of $1,500 will be provided for a business with a turnover of $50,000 up to a maximum payment of $100,000 for a business with a turnover of $20 million.
Galloway said the Federal Government’s announcement is certainly welcome news, but FCTG was awaiting the specific detail of the support.
“It appears that it won’t apply to Travel Associates, as part of FCTG, to any significant extent, given we are a large business with company-owned stores,” she said.
“Our 17 Travel Associates franchise stores may well be able to seek the support, however.”
“The program does appear to be targeted more at smaller businesses, franchisees and independent agents and it will be enormously beneficial to those who are eligible to receive it, given that agents have effectively been prevented from earning an income while heavy border restrictions, both internationally and domestically, have been in place.”
“Any support for our industry to rebuild quickly in order to thrive once again is a relief.”
To assist the independent, entrepreneurial agents who do not have the backing of a large business, Flight Centre Travel Group has implemented a support package via the Travel Partners brand.
“We clearly see the difficulty these agents are experiencing with no income,” Galloway said.
“The Federal Government program does look likely to benefit these agents and any way to provide financial assistance and reach the light at the end of the tunnel is to be applauded.”
Anthony Goldman shared a similar response, telling LATTE that Goldman Travel Group was pleased to be offered some financial assistance for the travel agency community.
“We have been working hard to ensure credits are all secure for future travels,” he said.
“Our business will only fully recover as international borders are open, and any monetary assistance will ensure we can support our team and business in coming months.”
“The travel agency industry was the first to be hit, and will be the last to recover. We are on our way, back in the office, taking bookings and getting the travel bug once again!” he said optimistically.
Western Australia border changes and warning
Western Australia has classified the spread of coronavirus from the two eastern states as ‘very low risk’, thereby removing the mandatory 14-day quarantine period on travellers, effective Tuesday 8 December.
That move is under the proviso that there are no further outbreaks in NSW or Victoria in the coming days.
WA has achieved 233 days without any community spread of COVID-19. Premier Mark McGowan this week said he will be quick to act should that change.
“I just warn people that if there’s an outbreak, we’ll put a hard border up again,” McGowan said.
The likely quarantine-free travel conditions to WA from all Australian states and territories (except South Australia which is currently deemed as ‘medium risk’), will enable families to celebrate Christmas together.
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